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Review: Super Hexagon (iOS)

Monday, January 28th, 2013 by

super_hexagon_titleThere are very few words I can use to describe Super Hexagon. If we were to play word association, the first word that comes to mind is “difficult.” That, in no way, does justice to the game. Others have bandied about the words “most difficult game ever,” but hearing that would cause people to anticipate frustration. That is not the case.

You see, like Super Meat Boy before it, Super Hexagon has that blend of perfect control and steep difficulty that rewards players for their prowess in a way that few games ever do. I never felt like the game was being cheap. There are no leaps of faith or spike traps to be found here. When I died, I knew it was my own fault and not some scripted death.

You play and you learn. You start to notice patterns. You start to react better. You focus better. You move without thinking.

Super Hexagon, beyond a shadow of doubt, is the best proof of concept for conditioning one could ask for. It is merciless from the moment you begin and never relents. It’s not a question of when you fail, as you will surely meet your demise within a matter of seconds. It’s a question of how many times will you fail before you begin to understand it.

It seems so simple in theory. Touch the screen to move left or right and avoid hitting walls. If you break it down further to “don’t get hit,” you’ve been doing this in basically every game you’ve ever played. You start it up, the walls close in, and you have your first moment of panic. You turn too far or you freeze dead in your tracks knowing that death is inevitable. You play, again and again, and make slight progress. You don’t know whether this is real progress or luck, but you’re surviving a little bit longer.

Then, just as you think you’re getting the hang of it around the ten second mark, the speed increases, the tunnel shifts directions, and the colors change. Suddenly, you lose focus and crash once more. You fail, again and again, until things just click together.

The whole point of the game, which is never revealed or explained, is to survive the game mode for one minute’s time.

From the start, there are three levels of difficulty: Hexagon, Hexagoner, and Hexagonest. These modes are labeled hard, harder, and hardest, respectively. It sounds like a joke, and surely it is very tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also not kidding around. Just in case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, Super Hexagon is incredibly difficult.

That is, in turn, what makes Super Hexagon incredibly addictive. Each time you play, it’s as if you learn something new. Sometimes, when a new tunnel sequence is introduced, you react properly and survive. Other times, though, you have no idea what is happening and die time and again. Eventually, you figure out what must be done and survive regularly. However, sometimes, your brain simply becomes overwhelmed with information and seems to give up the ghost.

New to the game? Start on Hexagonest. It'll make Hexagon seem slower.

New to the game? Play on Hexagonest a few times. It’ll make Hexagon easier.

The atmosphere in Super Hexagon is terrific. The few select voice samples sound detached and otherworldly, which is exactly what is needed for the proper effect, and fit well. Each difficulty level has different tunes by Chipzel with beats that match the action on screen. Not since Rez have I played a game that synced so well rhythmically. I wouldn’t go as far as to toss “synesthesia” about when discussing Super Hexagon, but there’s no denying that the music adds to the immersion.

I wondered if my love for Super Hexagon was the equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome for games. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that this is what I grew up doing. I grew up in the arcades, and people like me who remember a time where games were built entirely around the concept of taking your quarters as quickly as possible will be the ones who really appreciate Super Hexagon. Difficult games are comfort food for me, a reminder of why I fell in love with the entirety of gaming in the first place, and Super Hexagon feels like home.

5 star

(Super Hexagon is universal, features GameCenter leaderboards, Achievements, and supports widescreen displays. It is available in the App Store and on Google Play. Super Hexagon Version 1.2 was used for this review.)

About the Author

Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming. Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.

Fade to Slack has written 352 posts on Delta Attack

19 Responses to “Review: Super Hexagon (iOS)”

  1. Oh my fuck… dat trailer. It became hard to even follow, so I can only imagine playing it. Holy shit.

  2. I imagine that the perspective of climbing the well instead of descending gives a psychological impression of not being able to see as much as if you -were- descending, even if that’s not true. Thoughts?

  3. Brian Kerr says:

    My nine-month-old boy loves Super Hexagon more than any other thing.

  4. Looks and sounds like a ton of fun. My inner masochist is begging me to bite.

    • Do it! Do it! Leaderboards!!!

      • Done.

        This game is like the distilled essence of Dark Souls. It has all the learning, reward, and challenge of games like that but it’s masterfully siphoned into a steady, constant drip.

        I also find myself thumbing my nose a lot in that split second between losing and starting a new game; like “Fuck you Super Hexagon. I’m not going down like that.”

        But then I go down like that. Engaging Chumbawumba mode now.

        • Persevere!

          There’s a bunch of games on Playstation 3 that I want. Ni No Kuni, Dark Souls, and the ICO/SotC pack are at the top.

          But I will never have the time because of things like Super Hexagon, Jetpack Joyride, and Dungeon Raid.

          • Dark Souls is totally playable on the 360, bro. But if you ever do pick up a PS3, you owe it to yourself to put Valkyria Chronicles on that list, too.

            • I wasn’t aware of that. I might have to check that out. As for the PS3, I’m pretty okay with skipping it. Ni No Kuni is the only one that’s really eating at me. Well, that and Journey, but that’s just word-of-mouth.

  5. McKealty says:

    Watching the trailer I have decided that game is impossible.

    • That is the brilliance of the game. Once you begin to recognize patterns and turn off your brain, it’s like falling into a trance.

      The greatest moments are when you recognize your mistake mere milliseconds before crashing into a wall. I’ve literally laughed out loud at some of my deaths.

      It looks frustrating, and it can be at times, but it’s such a great game. If you haven’t picked it up already, you might want to take a look at the current Humble Bundle for Android. Even if you aren’t an Android user, the PC version is included if you pay above the average and Beat Hazard Ultra also receives a high recommendation from me.

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